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What is the Sydney Modern Project?

The Sydney Modern Project is the expansion of the Art Gallery of NSW that will almost double existing exhibition space. The expansion involves the construction of a new building and public art garden next to the existing Gallery.

Why does the Gallery want to expand?

The Gallery has not had a significant expansion in more than 30 years and current spaces are working beyond their capacity. By almost doubling the space for the display and enjoyment of art, the Gallery will be able to show more of its art collection alongside the best Australian and international exhibitions.

Is a new building being built or are you extending the existing building?

A new building, designed by architects SANAA, is being constructed to the north of the existing Gallery. The stand-alone building will be connected to the existing Gallery by an outdoor public art garden. Together, the two buildings and art garden will form an expanded art museum.

Where will the new building be located?

The Sydney Modern Project will enhance the site to the north of the existing Gallery, comprising two grassed concrete platforms – one being the land bridge over the Eastern Distributor and Cahill Expressway, and the other being the roof on top of two disused World War II naval oil tanks. The new building will be constructed primarily on top of the oil tanks and include adaptive re-use of the tanks. Most of the land bridge will remain open space with a new public art garden.

Will the two buildings be connected?

The new and existing buildings will operate as stand-alone buildings connected via an outdoor public art garden, which will feature art and landscape.

Will the Gallery close during construction?

The Gallery remains open during construction. If there is any change to operations, the Gallery will communicate this to visitors and the community well in advance to minimise any impacts.

When will the new building open?

The new building is due for completion in 2022.

Who owns the project site?

The project site is owned by the NSW Government. Its management is split across three State Government entities: the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust, Roads and Maritime Services, and the Art Gallery of NSW. The land tenure arrangements for the project, including areas of subdivision for current and future leases, have been agreed with all landowners.

Are you building in the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney?

The Sydney Modern Project does not impact on land within the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, and the Gallery continues to work closely with its government colleagues and precinct partners to ensure plans and aspirations for the precinct are aligned.

What are the oil tanks?

Part of the Gallery’s expansion will involve adaptive re-use of two disused World War II naval oil tanks that make up part of the project site. This will enable public access to a significant State asset for the first time. One of the tanks will be repurposed into a unique art space and the other tank will be converted into back of house and a state-of-the-art loading dock to service the new building.

What are the benefits of an expanded Gallery?

The Sydney Modern Project will deliver a range of cultural, educational and economic benefits, including:

  • Close to double the current building’s exhibition space to enable the Gallery to show more of the State’s outstanding art collection and attract major national and international exhibitions to Sydney
  • A new prominent destination showcasing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art and culture
  • Increased visitation to at least 2 million per year, including capacity to significantly increase student and teacher visits
  • Dedicated spaces and facilities for learning and participation, with innovative and interactive programs
  • Architectural and cultural landmark where people, art and ideas come together in the heart of Sydney’s eastern cultural precinct
  • The first public art museum in the nation to achieve the highest environmental standard for design with a 6-star Green Star design rating from the Green Building Council of Australia
  • The design maximises and enhances open space across the site with courtyards, green roofs and three landscaped accessible roof terraces
  • Improved 24/7 public access, landscaping and civic amenity for all visitors and an improved universal pathway with two new lifts to better connect Woolloomooloo with the CBD
  • Wider economic benefit to the NSW economy of more than $1 billion over the next 25 years, including the creation of 242 full-time jobs

What is the project cost and how is it being funded?

The total budget for the Gallery’s expansion project is $344 million. The project budget covers construction of the new building and limited modifications to the existing building.

The NSW Government committed $244 million for the project and the Gallery’s Capital Campaign raised more than $100 million in philanthropic support.

The Sydney Modern Project is the largest government and philanthropic partnership of its kind to date in the Australian arts.

What is the Gallery’s Capital Campaign?

The Gallery’s $100 million Capital Campaign to support the construction of the new building was officially launched in 2017, with a $20 million gift from Isaac Wakil AO and Susan Wakil AO – the largest monetary donation in the Gallery’s history. The Susan & Isaac Wakil Foundation has since made an additional gift of $4 million, bringing their total commitment to $24 million.

In November 2018, the Gallery announced that it had surpassed its campaign target, raising $103.5 million. The Gallery is continuing to seek philanthropic support for its transformation including the art garden, revitalisation of the existing building, and art acquisitions. The Gallery will be launching an art acquisitions campaign in the lead up to its 150th anniversary.

Why is the project budget different to the original cost estimate?

The original cost estimate of $450 million included a broader range of upgrades and scheduled maintenance to the Gallery’s existing building. These are now being considered independently to the Sydney Modern Project and the Gallery continues to work with Government on the matter.

What changes will be made to the existing building and when?

Modifications and enhancements will be made to the existing building to ensure the Gallery continues to operate efficiently across two stand-alone buildings and delivers a seamless expanded gallery experience for visitors. These revitalisation projects will commence prior to the opening of the new building.

Who is the Sydney Modern Project architect?

SANAA, headed by Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa, is a Tokyo-based, multiple award-winning architectural and design firm. SANAA was chosen as the 2010 Laureate of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, making Sejima only the second woman to win the coveted prize.
SANAA worked with the Australian firm Architectus who are the executive architect, and a broader consultant team on the design of the Sydney Modern Project.

How did you choose the architects?

The Gallery undertook an invitation-only two-stage design competition in 2014 endorsed by the Australian Institute of Architects and the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects. Twelve renowned Australian and international architectural practices submitted design ideas as part of stage one and following an anonymous judging process, five finalists were selected to proceed to the second and final design stage. The competition jury unanimously selected SANAA as the preferred design architects in 2015.

How has the design concept of the new building evolved?

The design of the new building has evolved since 2015 as the Gallery has worked closely with SANAA and responded to feedback from stakeholders. In November 2018, the design was approved under the State Significant Development Application for the project.

The new stand-alone building will be linked to the existing Gallery building via an outdoor public art garden. The new building comprises a series of pavilions that follow the topography of the site and are clustered around a central circulation core that will allow visitors seamless access to each floor.

Have you consulted with the community about the design?

The design of the new building has evolved since 2015 as the Gallery has worked closely with SANAA and taken on board feedback from stakeholders. In November 2018, the design was approved under the State Significant Development Application for the project.

How will you protect the Gallery’s heritage and green space around the site?

The heritage and environmental context of the Gallery’s existing building and its location within the Domain and adjacent to the Royal Botanic Garden have been key considerations during the evolution of the design. A range of sustainability initiatives have contributed to the Gallery expansion achieving the highest environmental standards. This includes a 6-star Green Star design rating from the Green Building Council of Australia. This makes the Art Gallery of NSW the first public art museum in Australia to achieve the highest environmental rating, setting a new benchmark nationally and internationally.

How will public access and transport throughout the site change once the building is open?

Current access routes from Woolloomooloo to the CBD via the Gallery and the Domain will be maintained and enhanced with improved pathways and two new lifts to enable better and safer universal access. Transport changes along Art Gallery Road will improve the public amenity, safety and accessibility across an expanded Gallery and the broader precinct. Precinct-wide discussions are taking place about public access and transport.

Project delivery

Who is delivering the project?

The project is being delivered by Infrastructure NSW on behalf of the Gallery and in collaboration with Create Infrastructure and the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE).

In September 2019, Richard Crookes Constructions was announced as the selected principal contractor to build the Sydney Modern Project.

Has construction commenced?
Construction works are underway. Richard Crookes Constructions commenced works on-site in 2019.

What is the construction timeline?

The expansion project is scheduled for completion in 2022.

What are the construction hours?

As per the SSDA approval, the Sydney Modern Project construction will take place between 7am and 6pm Monday to Friday and 8am to 3:30pm on Saturday*. Construction does not occur on Sundays or public holidays.

On some occasions, out of hours works may need to take place. Separate notifications will be provided to any impacted stakeholders in advance of these works.

*From Saturday, 16 May 2020, construction hours will be extended from 7am to 6pm on Saturdays to align with weekday hours. This is in line the Environmental Planning and Assessment (COVID-19 Development – Construction Work Days) Order 2020.

When can I expect to hear noise?

Noise may be heard within construction hours. Construction hours comply with the SSDA approval and work outside of these hours cannot occur without prior approval. Noise vibration monitors are in place and the contractor is required to report if noise levels ever exceed those specified in the SSDA approval. As per the SSDA approval, noisier activities such as rock breaking and hammering can only be carried out between 9am to 12pm, and 2pm to 5pm, Monday to Friday; and 9am to 12pm, Saturday.

Will there be a lot of dust?

Certain works will create dust at different times of the project. Richard Crookes Constructions is monitoring the level of dust following the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and SSDA regulations.

How will construction impacts be managed?

Detailed management plans have been developed, which outline ways to mitigate and manage construction impacts such as noise, dust and vibration. Relevant plans are available on the project status page. In addition, the project must meet all the conditions of consent as part of the SSDA approval.

Will there be changes to parking, pedestrian or vehicle access?

There will be occasions throughout the project that public parking, pedestrian routes and vehicle access may be temporarily impacted. All activities will require approval prior for any changes, such as traffic management plans and council permits. Traffic controllers and signage will be in place, where relevant.

Will there be any changes for pedestrians who use the project site?

There are currently changed pedestrian access arrangements around the project site. The main change is for pedestrians using the access path along the landbridge to/from the CBD and Woolloomooloo, and recreational users of the landbridge and oil tank land. Vehicle access along Art Gallery Road is not affected.

Pedestrian access routes may temporarily change due to construction activities. Impacted areas will be signposted to advise of alternate routes. Pedestrian access and wayfinding information will be available throughout the precinct, on the project website and on information flyers. To find out the latest access information, please visit the project status page, or call or email the project team.

Will the Eastern Distributor close during construction?

The construction of the Sydney Modern Project will not result in any closures of the Eastern Distributor beyond those already planned by the ED operator for regular maintenance.

Are you removing parking spots during construction?

A small number of parking bays will be removed along the western side of Lincoln Crescent during construction to accommodate a construction zone.

Where will construction vehicles enter and exit the site?

Construction vehicles will enter the construction site via Art Gallery Road, Mrs Macquaries Road and Lincoln Crescent.

What are the construction routes for vehicles?

Construction vehicles will use main artillery roads to access the site including the Eastern Distributor, Harbour Tunnel, Macquarie Street and College Street.

What was the planning assessment process for Sydney Modern?

The Sydney Modern Project is being delivered as a State Significant Development under the Environment Planning and Assessment Act 1979.

When was planning approval received?

Planning consent was received on 20 November 2018 from the Minister for Planning.

Will the existing Gallery be closing during construction?

The Gallery remains open during construction.

How can I access the Art Gallery of NSW during construction of the Sydney Modern Project?

The Gallery can be accessed as normal via the entrance on Art Gallery Road.

Will construction work impact on events held at the Gallery?

No impact is anticipated.

When will the new building be officially opened?

The new building is due for competition in 2022. The completion of the new building will be the culmination of the Gallery’s 150th anniversary celebrations.

What happens next? Where can I have my say?

Richard Crookes Constructions has commenced construction works on site. The new building is due for completion in 2022.

The Sydney Modern Project team is keeping the community informed as work progresses, and regular updates will be available on the project status page. Sign-up at the top of the page to stay up-to-date with the latest project developments via our e-news.

For further enquiries or to provide feedback, call 1800 717 705 or email

Can’t find the answer to your question?

Contact the Sydney Modern Project team for more information via:
Phone: 1800 717 705
Post: C/: Richard Crookes Constructions, Sydney Modern Project Team, Art Gallery of NSW, Art Gallery Road, The Domain, Sydney NSW 2000

For any emergencies on-site:

Call Anthony Di Cecco, Project Manager, on 0437 677 813.

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